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    • 16 NOV 12
    • 0

    Gregory Roth, MA, OTR/L, CHT
    Director of the Center for Hand and Upper Extremity Therapy

    The winter season is upon us. Whether you’re a skier or a snowboarder, here are some things you need to know before heading off to the slopes.

    These activities tend to have specific hand and/or arm injuries associated with them. Although the majority of skiing injuries involve the legs, particularly the knees, there is one common hand injury also associated with this sport. Skier’s Thumb is an injury of the soft tissues of the thumb. These soft tissues, otherwise known as ligaments, maintain the alignment of one bone to another. These ligaments are important because they contribute to the stability of the thumb during grasping and holding.

    Skier’s Thumb occurs most frequently when a skier falls on his/her outstretched hand while holding a ski pole. This, in turn, puts excessive force on the ligaments at the base of the thumb causing them to be overstretched or torn. Any injury that bends the thumb backwards or to the side can cause Skier’s Thumb.

    The most notable symptoms of Skier’s Thumb are pain or tenderness to the touch along the inside of the thumb, and weakness or inability to pinch between the thumb and index finger. Additional symptoms may include the following: swelling of the thumb, bruising of the thumb, or pain that worsens with movement of the thumb in any direction.

    If you suspect that you may have Skier’s Thumb, you should be examined by an orthopaedic hand surgeon as early as possible. The orthopedist will examine the thumb and determine the best course of treatment. The majority of injuries to these ligaments result in a partial injury that can be treated by immobilization for several weeks. In the event that there is a complete tear in the ligament, surgical repair will need to be performed in order to restore the function of the thumb.

    Unlike skiing, the majority of snowboarding injuries do involve the upper extremities. The most common snowboarding injury is a fracture of the wrist. That being said, the best form of treatment is preventing the injury from occurring in the first place. Most wrist fractures associated with snowboarding can be avoided by wearing wrist guards to help ease the force of falls. In the event that a wrist fracture does occur, an orthopaedist should be seen as soon as possible in order to care for the fracture appropriately and help prevent further injury and/or complication.

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